Workplace fatality data is an essential ingredient in benchmarking safety performance for business and government. Suicide statistics are equally important in the social and public health context.
The editorial in the current issue of the Medical Journal of Australia has some interesting comments on how suicide statistics have been collected in Australia over the last decade.
“….a great deal of caution must be employed when interpreting trends in suicide in Australia during the past decade, particularly when making comparisons between jurisdictions (as these have been found to be differentially affected, as a result of differences in coronial processing times). Unfortunately, it is likely that at least part of the apparent decline since about 2002 shown by ABS [Australian Bureau of Statistics] statistics and reported by various authors, including Large and Nielssen, is an artefact of increased misclassification of suicide deaths.”
The editorial goes on to say that changes have been introduced to provide more reliable data in the future but the editorial is important o remember when the Australian media and workplace and mental health lobby groups quote suicide statistics.
It makes one wonder, in a profession like safety that advocates making decisions based on evidence, just how reliant the evidence is on the collection of accurate statistics.